2 out of 4 stars
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Most of us have experienced times when we aren't happy – when we wish our lives were somehow different. Maybe we are in a dead-end job or a failing relationship. In From Drift to Shift, author Jody B. Miller’s 2017 book, she writes, “When we don’t feel useful or worthy in work and life, we spiral downward. How do we rise up from the pit of despair?” Miller set out to answer this existential question. She boldly asserts that this book serves as a roadmap to where we want to be – to “true happiness and fulfillment every day.”
Jody Miller’s 12 years as an executive recruiter and job/life coach positioned her to compile the stories of eight people who each found themselves in challenging, and even death-defying, situations. From Drift to Shift is presented in four sections that each represent a phase in the process of shifting toward a better life. Section one examines the motivation for change. Serita’s success in spite of her foster care beginnings, and the survival of the Amazon-dwelling Achuar people teach us to follow our hearts regardless of the opposition.
Section two, “When to Shift,” introduces Andy, an extreme-sports athlete who nearly died in a skydiving accident. After persevering through 26 surgeries and years of rigorous physical therapy, Andy went on to help others who have experienced injury, trauma, or disability. Somehow Andy forged on even in the absence of personal strength. How do we keep going in the face of desperate circumstances? That brings us to section three.
“How to Shift” invites us into the heart of the matter. Whether it is trauma, depression, illness, or general dissatisfaction, Miller examines how people successfully rise up and out of challenging circumstances. Commitment, focus, and determination are important, but what actually enables us to stay committed to changing our life path? That’s where spirituality comes in. Having a connection with some version of spiritual principles is a theme that runs through this section and much of the book. Buddhism, Christianity, and Hinduism all figure prominently as potential paths to happiness and fulfillment.
Many of the stories are compelling, though they often stray far from the stated theme of the book. The full title of the book is From Drift to Shift: How Change Can Bring True Meaning and Happiness to Your Work and Life. In the introduction, the author asserts, “We spend more than 30 percent of our lives doing something we hate, or we stay in relationships that make us miserable. We just drift along.” She sets up a theme in the realm of work and relationships but then meanders into the depth of trauma. Many of the people in Miller's stories experience severe, severe trauma – from early attachment wounds to near-death disfiguring accidents. These stories are a mismatch for this book’s theme. I question why the author chose to include stories with this level of severity. These survivors were not somehow “drifting” in their lives and needing to “shift.” They endured years, sometimes decades, of therapies and painstaking personal work. Miller fails to hone in on whether the book is a self-help book about how to shift out of job or relationship dissatisfaction, or a psychology book about how to move beyond severe trauma, or a spiritual/inspirational book about how to achieve fulfillment through spirituality. Unfortunately, Miller doesn’t do any of these things really well.
There is an apparent disconnect between the author’s spiritual prescription for change and her own words. In the introduction, Miller declares, “ I want you to be happy, in all things, every day of your life. This is what you deserve – it is your birthright.” The author espouses spiritual principles but repeatedly advances happiness as the ultimate goal. Buddhist and Hindu teachings acknowledge we can employ practices that help lessen the experience of suffering, but suffering will always come and go. And as for Christianity, “through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). Happiness all day, every day is not a spiritual principle, nor is it a useful yardstick for change. It sets up an unattainable goal, which is the kryptonite of change. In addition, it undercuts the pain and discomfort that true change often requires. Spirituality figures largely in the book, but I don’t know of a spiritual tradition that promotes happiness in all things, at all times.
The book’s supplemental sections are cumbersome. The appendix and notes span a tedious 75 pages of this 259-page book. The appendix includes a long, detailed Hinduism primer. While interesting, a spiritual treatise this long doesn’t fit with the rest of the book. The notes section contains over 20 pages of additional advice and information from the author, where a page or two with some links would have been cleaner and more effective.
The book is full of editing errors – over 10. The editor used the semicolon improperly throughout the book. I stopped counting at 10 semicolon errors in the first 50 pages. I rate From Drift to Shift 2 out of 4 stars. While I think some will gain inspiration from the stories, the book as a whole was unfocused. And, the basic message was difficult to extract from the sea of feel-good clichés like, “Be as positive as you can.” If you are attracted to this book because of the theme invoked by the title, you may be disappointed. Miller ultimately fails to impart a clear path from “drift” to “shift.”
From Drift to SHIFT
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